The S&P 500 ended slightly lower on Friday as investors braced for potential damage from Hurricane Irma as it drove toward Florida, while a decline in big tech names like Apple Inc and Facebook Inc pushed the NASDAQ down more sharply.
The Dow eked out a gain, helped by a 4 percent rise in shares of insurer Travelers Co.
Insurer shares rose broadly, with the Dow Jones US Insurance Index up 2.1 percent, recouping some losses after being under pressure recently as the southern US braced for another powerful storm closely on the heels of Hurricane Harvey.
Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, lashed Cuba and the Bahamas as it drove toward Florida, while US officials were preparing a massive response to the storm.
“Investors are really in a wait-and-see mode given their concern about the impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida and wherever else it ends up going,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St Louis.
“Overall, we are seeing the market and investors sort of hunker down to see what the damage and destruction turns out to be,” she said.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Friday rose 13.01 points, or 0.06 percent, to 21,797.79, the S&P 500 lost 3.67 points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,461.43 and the NASDAQ Composite dropped 37.68 points, or 0.59 percent, to 6,360.19.
Major indices all posted declines for the week after two weeks of gains as the Dow fell 0.9 percent, the S&P 500 lost 0.6 percent and the NASDAQ Composite retreated 1.2 percent.
The tech sector, which has outperformed all other major groups this year, ended down 0.9 percent on Friday. Shares of Apple were down 1.6 percent while shares of Facebook fell 1.3 percent.
Energy shares fell 1.1 percent as oil prices dropped on worries that commerce and energy demand in Florida and southeast US would be hit hard due to Irma.
Shares of Home Depot Inc and Lowe’s Co, which have gained amid of the arrival of the storms, rose on Friday. The stocks were up 1.1 percent each.
Geopolitical concerns kept investors on edge as South Korea prepared for a possible further missile test by North Korea yesterday, days after its sixth and largest nuclear test.
“It’s a confluence of concerns that have been hovering over the market, everything from North Korea ... and obviously the hurricane and the damage that will ensue,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial Inc in Newark, New Jersey.
Despite those macro concerns, the benchmark S&P 500 still is within about 1 percent of its all-time closing high as investors point to strong corporate earnings and solid economic data as supporting stocks.
Equifax Inc was the biggest percentage loser on the S&P, falling 13.7 percent, after the provider of consumer credit scores said personal details of as many as 143 million US consumers were hacked.
Kroger Co shares ended down 7.5 percent after the biggest US supermarket owner reported a quarterly profit drop amid an intensifying grocery price war.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the New York Stock Exchange by a 1.19-to-1 ratio; on NASDAQ, a 1.01-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
About 6 billion shares changed hands in US exchanges on Friday, above the 5.8 billion daily average over the past 20 sessions.
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